HDAT2 – The Ultimate Hard Drive Rescue Tool

Posted on Thursday 12 November 2009

So now that I’ve upgraded to a Karmic Koala, and am happy with most of the results, I’ve decided that it’s time to retire my old system ( all of 3 years…) and see what else I can do with it.

Suffice to say, unfortunately, there are still a lot of things that don’t run well in Linux and  while Windows XP “may” be starting to show it’s age, it’s still runs some of the accessories and tools that I can’t get to run on Linux and so I thought that I would clean up my older machine ( which has run XP for quite a few years now, and gave me some successful results with Ubuntu ) with a clean install of XP and try and get those things that won’t run on my newer Koala machine to run on it…. as I really don’t like having to reboot from one Operating System to the other every time I get a “brilliant” idea….

I unfortunately, of course, ran into a MAJOR problem ( which lucky for you generated this report – and why I’ve been off air working on it pretty solidly for almost a week. ) What happenned was that somewhere in amongst my repartitioning and reformatting my newer 500GB Seagate drive it decided to go into “security mode”. Just what this “security mode” is and does has still left me scratching my head… and there are a lot of others out there who have stumbled across this problem also… most sites refer to it as a “freeze lock”

Suffice to say there are a lot of problems out there. The majority of the “free” solutions was to  try to build a boot disk and try replacing the MBR ( Master Boot Record ), getting Seagate to replace it, “remembering” the password used to lock the device etc etc etc…. I might have tried the MBR repair root, except I had thought that I had successfully “wiped” or “erased” the drive making sure it wouldn’t boot back into anything resembling what it first was.

Basically the symptoms were that the drive acted and looked normal, save for a mysterious 8GB partition that would pop up on it’s own from time to time. Deleting it seemed to work and repartitioning and formatting the drive seemed to work except when ever I tried to install Windows it would progress along to when it needed to boot on its own and fail! Responding that it could not find NTLDLR  ( which is an NT Loader for Windows XP….. ah the history…. ) after a lot of research I found the solution… So I followed the recommended to manually install the NTLDR.EXE,  using the Microsoft Repair option off of the XP install disk, only to discover that it was already there! But for some really bizarre reason, the computer would not recognize it, nor find it!

So, I replaced the files anyways and rebooted, it still failed, so I tried a repartition and reinstall from step one…. and that funny 8GB partition kept showing up, so I decided to look for tools made by Seagate that should have help me with this problem – Seatools from of course Seagate allowed me to do pretty well everything, and I tried everything, I secure erased the entire drive, analyzed it to death, etc, etc, etc and the software said that all was healthy…. it did find some bad sectors which I thought okay, maybe that was the problem….. but after attempting installation number 23…… NTLDR was still not found and that funny 8GB partition was back…. Everything seemed to say that I had 8GB of disk space locked out on the drive that was sometimes seen, and sometimes not…. and when the installation program ran into it ( because it obviously couldn’t see it ) the installation somehow failed, while trying to think that it succeeded….

Again all my research seemed to point towards a locked or frozen piece of the hard drive, but I could not find anything, anywhere that would let me fix it…. then I found an innocuous little reference to yet another free disk tool called HDAT…. or more properly HDAT2 and since nothing else had worked I gave it a try. It’s home page is www.hdat2.com.

It had all sorts of suggestions and fixes for both damaged Master Boot Records and “frozen” or security issues.. The in-depth analysis available with this package is amazing. This package will tell you more about your hard drive than anything else I’ve seen, and since it isn’t specifically designed for any particular manufacturer ( like Seagates is ) it’s a tool that should be in anyones library!

The analysis showed me that I still had a valid MBR ( Master Boot Record ) but that I also had 571 folders and a locked portion of the hard drive that I could not delete…. thankfully it at least found them AND acknowledge that it couldn’t delete them…. so I started doing some further analyis and everytime it found a problem I tried to fix it, and it reported that it couldn’t….. writes were not “allowed”…..

So I looked really closely at the “Device Configuration Overlay” or DCO menu and within that was an item marked “Freeze Lock” which meant that this tool should allow me to access that hidden frozen section that keeps XP from installing…… With a bit of playing ( sorry I didn’t write down the exact steps ) I found that even though security did not appear enabled I was still able to disable all security features and locks… when I was done I was able to partition the hard drive ( that mysterious 8GB partition disappeared ) and install XP as if nothing had happened.

HDAT2 will be my number one hard disk tool for any future problems ( and here’s hoping I wont have any more….) I recommend you check it out before you try any other solution – it saved me from having to go out and buy another 500GB drive…. Here is some more info from their home page…

HDAT2 is program for test or diagnostics of ATA/ATAPI/SATA, SSD and SCSI/USB devices.
It will not execute in a DOS session under Windows. You should make a DOS boot floppy disk or CD/DVD and boot your system for it and execute this program from that floppy disk or CD-ROM.
HDAT2 program has 2 levels:

  • Drive level testing– main function is testing and repair (to regenerate) bad sectors for detected devices
    – you get many information about detected devices
  • File level testing– read/find/check items (MBR, boot, directories, etc.) of file system FAT12/16/32
    – check/remove (regenerates) bad sectors records, flags in FAT table
End Article
  1. ako Said,

    Hi! im exploring the HDAT program now. I hope to use this in repairing my damaged hard disk. Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to use this software? I hope you can help me.with this.

  2. Rick Said,

    I would recommend going slow at first. Do the non-invasive tests first (unless of course you aren’t interested in saving any of the data) then work your way up. It really is a case of trial and error, also check the website, there is lots of good info available there as I recall.

    Lastly – Good Luck!

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